This week, Nintendo did its usual thing of shadow-dropping a major announcement on a (largely) unsuspecting world, and now the dust has settled on the reveal of the Switch OLED Model, it’s time to ask the vital question: where does that leave the much-rumoured Switch Pro?
In case you somehow missed it, the Switch OLED Model offers a larger 7-inch screen with superior brightness and deeper, more convincing contrast. Nintendo has also included improved speakers, a Microsoft Surface-style kickstand and a LAN port on the redesigned dock – all in a machine that retails for $350. However, there’s no boost to the console’s power when compared to the original Switch and Switch Lite – and the battery capacity is the same as the original Switch model (to be specific, the improved 2019 iteration), too.
Some of the reports tied to what was believed to be the Switch Pro have been validated by the announcement of the Switch OLED Model. For example, it was reported back in March 2021 that Samsung was mass-producing a 7-inch, 720p OLED panel for the Switch, with the aim to manufacture just under a million units per month and ship the first batch of panels to assemblers by July. This ties in perfectly with the Switch OLED Model’s release in October, so the rumours were on the money there – it’s just that many people expected the panel to be included in a 4K-ready console (when docked) – and Bloomberg’s sources suggested as much. Even Universal Display Corp – the company from which Samsung (and many other firms) licence OLED tech – mentioned Switch Pro reports during its Q1 investors call.
Another rumour was related to the aforementioned kickstand, and that was correct – as was the inclusion of a LAN port on the dock itself. However, the 7-inch OLED panel was also mentioned in this report, which is another indication that some of these sources simply confused the OLED Model for the mythical Switch Pro.
If that’s the case – and many people do seem to be satisfied with that explanation – then why were there so many reports (from respected publications like The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, lest we forget) indicating that a more powerful Switch variant was in the offing? Why were there reports that 4K output would be included, and why did so many people expect a more powerful system?
Rumours that the Switch was getting improved internal hardware have been floating around for ages, and while sources like Bloomberg have claimed on multiple occasions to have spoken to people ‘familiar with the matter’, it’s tempted to suggesting that some ‘joining of dots’ has taken place here. In March of this year, Nvidia announced that it was ceasing production of the chip which powers the Switch, which fed into earlier rumours that the console would benefit from a better SoC at some point in the near future – that became the Tegra X1 ‘Mariko’, which eventually found its way into the 2019 revision of the Switch and the Switch Lite, but other reports suggested that a totally new chipset was also on the way.
Taking a look at all of the rumours and reports we’ve seen over the past few years – and taking into account the arrival of the Switch OLED Model – it’s easy to see why so many people have turned on those who reported on the rumoured Switch Pro. However, as anyone involved in consumer electronics will tell you, hardware development isn’t something that happens in fits and starts, and Nintendo – like any other video game hardware maker – will be working on new concepts and variants all the time.
This, of course, leads us to a ‘stopped clock is always right twice a day’ situation; those who claim the reports are true will, eventually, be validated because of course Nintendo is working on a new Switch variant. This is the company that pumped out six different versions of the 3DS, lest we forget; it’s something of a no-brainer to predict another, more powerful model is coming at some point.
However, there are those who are claiming they’ve heard the Pro model is still in the works, and is expected in 2022:
The most frustrating thing about all of this from a fan perspective is that everybody might be right when it comes to Switch Pro. We know Nintendo likes to iterate on its portable hardware quite soon after the initial release (let’s not forget that the GBA SP arrived less than two years after the release of the original model, while the DS Lite arrived on the scene 15 months after the 2004 launch of the ‘phat’ version) and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a Pro model was intended to arrive much sooner than planned.
With COVID-19 gripping the world from the start of 2020 onwards and the incredible (perhaps unexpected?) sales momentum of Switch, it could simply be that Nintendo altered its plans in response to real-world conditions. This is not a unique thing and happens all of the time in the world of consumer electronics – and it’s perfectly possible that one of the ‘sources close to the matter’ who spoke to the likes of Bloomberg and WSJ was simply relaying the state of affairs within Nintendo’s production chain at that particular moment in time.
Also, just because the 7-inch OLED screen, improved kickstand and LAN-ready dock are all parts of the OLED Model, that doesn’t mean those same elements won’t be part of the Switch Pro, too. In fact, it wouldn’t make any sense for Nintendo to revert back to a smaller LCD panel for future Switch SKUs, so you could argue that by releasing a revised base model now, Nintendo is laying down the tracks for a more robust upgrade in the near future.
It’s also worth pointing out that as plans change, the goalposts are shifting, too. The Switch will be five years old in 2022, and although Nintendo has predicted a long lifespan for the system, it will be long overdue for an upgrade by that point (some might even argue it was overdue a long time ago). Perhaps the ‘Switch Pro’ will simply morph into the Switch 2, a complete successor to the original Switch which is less of an incremental update and more a totally overhauled platform.
That’s assuming, of course, that Nintendo goes against tradition and sticks with the Switch concept instead of doing what it is so often accustomed to doing, which is attempting to shift the paradigm with a totally new approach, just as it did with the DS, Wii, Wii U and Switch. There’s always the chance that Nintendo could drop the hybrid concept and release something entirely fresh, but one would hope that the failure of the Wii U and the fact that Nintendo has carved out a profitable niche which it has entirely to itself would dissuade such action.
Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see if the rumours and reports persist now that the OLED Model has broken cover.
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